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Full text of "Address delivered at Oakwood Cemetery, May 10th, 1881, by request of the Ladies' Memorial Association of North Carolina"

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Uniuxm^ of il^ctt!) Carolina 

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Ladies' Memorial Association 


North Carolina. 

Edwards. Bkoughton & Co., Peinters and Binders, 


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Maj. John W.Moore, 




Ladies' Memorial Association 


North Carolina. 


Edwards, Brougiiton & Co., Printers and Binders, 

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Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hil 



Ladies and Gentlemen: 

AVe have gathered here in this quiet city of the dead to 
recall the images of our loved and lost. We do not come 
in sack-cloth and ashes as badges of our woe — we do not lie 
down in despair to utter lamentations over broken idols — 
but, in the plentitude of an ancient sorrow, we are here to 
mark the return of the most sacred day in all our secular 
calendar. Once again we adorn the graves and garland the 
memories of our Confederate dead. Heaven smiles upon 
our purpose — for the sunlight is glorious and only gentlest 
breezes blow upon this throng engaged in the discharge of 
a high and holy duty. No human emotion is nobler than 
gratitude. Frail humanity never assumes an aspect more 
pleasing to the angels than when benefits conferred are re- 
membered. Add to this that our benefactors can no longer 
recognize our thanksgiving, and this day's pageantry be- 
comes sublime in the height and purity of its prompiings. 
We renew our tokens of love to those \vho once loved us ; 
and feel assured that no words of ours will be misconstrued 
by the men we honor — for flattery is never addressed to the 
dull, cold ears of death. 

Alas, iny friends ! how empty and tame are all our words 
! in the face of these imposing symbolisms of our grief? The 
bolemn procession, this great gathering of our people, these 
wailing dirges for the dead, and above all, these garlanded 
graves, are so full of majesty and pathos, that they dw^arf 
into insignificance all the resources of mere rhetoric. How 
can we, who knew and loved these dead men find words to 
portray their worth or our appreciation of their service ? 
How are we to rise to the height of so noble an argument 

fis is implied in such an eulo;j,-iuni as they deserve ? We 
can only bring the tribute of our thanks and tears; and 
with faltering utterance repeat the story of how they fought 
and died for us. It was said l)y tb.e .'-^aviour of the world 
that "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay 
down his life for his friend." So, also, it is true that he 
who loves a cause well enough to die in its defence hallows 
it by his blood, and in the nobility of the sacrifice precludes 
the possibility of unworthy imputation upon his motives. 
Here, my countrymen are the tombs of our martyrs. Here, 
in the long silence of eternity, rest the stilled hearts that 
were once the pride and buhvark of our people. Give all 
your reverence to this solemn ])i-esence, and rem^'mber that 
we this day tread on holy ground. It holds the ashes of 
heroes! It is a shrine whereon we may well crucify all 
that is base in our natures, and, inspired by such exemplars, 
rise to higher things. Alas I all that we have left of these 
dauntless defenders of our soil is now but handfuUs of dust, 
hidden forever from our sight. 

Tlie buo'le's call no more tlioy hear ; 
The drums are silent on each ear ; 
They raouliler from us year by year. 

The wlltl llower blooms upon their graves ; 
The robin chants his sweetest staves ; 
The green grass softly o'er them waves. 

The lily droops its pensive head; 
The hawk sails silent far o'erhead ; 
And thej' sleep on long dumb and dead. 

It cannot be they died in vain, 

Or fruitless all their toil and pain — 

The martyr's blood must have its gain. 

A purpose deep was in their loss ; 
No storm in vain the waves shall toss- 
God lifts us by each heavy cross. 

As richer grows the pruned tree — 

So nobler new liumanitj' 

Is born of blood shed full and free. 


We this day renew our testimony to the world, that hips- 
ing years are j^owerless to erase from the tal)lets of our hearts 
the rnemor}' of the men who sleep beneath these mounds. 
In all the blood and upheaval of the two last decades we 
are still mindful of those we saw depart so long ago as they 
went forward to do battle in our behalf. We do not claim 
that they were demigods like those warriors on the windy 
plains of Troy of whom Homer sung ; these friends of ours 
could not, on the perilous edge of battle, call down aid from 
Olympic courts. They were only plain American citizens, 
who, of their own accord, left all the endearments of home 
at the call of duty. They W'Cre the flower of our gay and 
gallant 3'outh, who in all patience endured the horrors of a 
long and mortal struggle. They were soldiers wdio held at 
bay through years of blood and toil vast hordes gathered 
from many lands. They were a wall of defence against in- 
vaders seeking to desecrate our altars. It seemed to specta- 
tors, who observed from every portion of the civilized world, 
that these Confederates were to reverse military maxims 
concerning heavier battalions and superior resources. Time 
and again the great hosts sent against them went back from 
their front in terrified rout. They seemed for four years 
as unconquerable as Co3sar's legions or the Spanish infantry 
of the sixteenth century. After a hundred battles they were 
still like some rock in the sea which has endured through 
unimagined ages the assaults of wind and wave ; thus worn 
down by attrition, when countless foes drove them to the 
wall there was nothing left but the grim and scarred skele- 
ton of an army that had grown forever immortal. 

So it is, that with all our regret for the fate of these sleep- 
ers, we can yet mingle thanks to God that they died so 
bravely. If it is sad to recall the ruin of their cause, there 
is still unspeakable consolation in the epic of their glory. 
In the lapse of time gentler thoughts have come to both 
parties in the great controversy. They who love these dead 
Confederates best have no desire to sullv the wreaths that 


adorn the victorious brows of their adversaries ; the}' can 
see now that pati'iotisin and honor actuated the folhjwers of 
both the hostile Hags. In tlie providence of God we are 
again countryuien alL The liour is fast approaching when 
honor will Ije accorded without stint alike to the wearers of 
the gray and blue. To the great heart of America the 
graves of her slain sons are all equally dear ; they are the 
joint inheritance of an imperial race, and will uver be the 
proudest monuments (jf the patriotism of our people. 

There can be no sweeter savor to heaven than a patriots 
blood. All ages and climes hold deai the memories of men 
wlio surrendi-r life for the public good. Tlie tall ujonu- 
nient, the tuneful lay and the glowing pages of history unite 
irj homage to that grandeur of soul which can face death in 
the discharge of duty. 

"It is not all of life to live, nor all of death to die." 

We may shudder with apin-ehension at the thought of a 
change so full of unknown contingencies ; but many souls 
are too strong to falter at the expense of honor and self-a})- 
[)roval. Of such stuff, my countryman, were these dead 
Confederates. A\'here else in all the world have others been 
found more entitled to the gratitude and reverence of their 
compatriots. Their aims were noble; they sought only the 
defence of their homes ; they waged no war of aggression ; 
they were not mercenaries expending their blood in anoth- 
er's ciuarrel. They were just and niagnaninious ; they were 
so bravely patient that, amid the sorest privations, they, 
through heroic years, endured all the attacks of n:ieii out- 
numbering them four-fold. They not only held the field 
against a majority of their own countrymen, but the levies 
and resources gathered from many lands. With their sea- 
ports closed in blockade and the world sending men and 
munitions to their foes, these dead Confederates not only 
bravely took up the wager of battle, but for four years bore 
their part in a struggle that filled all Christendom with its 


Tims, my hearers, we can afford to dry our tears and 
thank lieavcn we are the friends, kinsmen and survivors of 
such soldiers. We clieerisli their memories as the most 
precious legacy of the past, and earnestly desire that our 
children and posterity should continue this homage to our 
dead. We are not content to leave their names to the cold 
keeping of monumental inscriptions. It is not enough that 
history, with her solemn vindication, will embalm their 
i-ecord. Let us, in hymn and elegy — in oration and epic, 
with all the added pomp of pageant and festival — keep 
green in Southern hearts the memory of men who were 
thus faithful unto death. 

In the sum of human endowments there is no higher gift 
than the facult\' which makes us capable of appreciating 
the virtues of others. We rise to our highest level when 
glowing with pride and satisfaction in the contemplation of 
deeds done in long vanished centuries. The soul that is 
fired with emulous admiration in the perusal of Plutarch is 
on the high road to honor and usefulness, Horatius upon 
the bridge of death, Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermo- 
pyla?, and the French guardsmen at Waterloo, are as potent 
to-day as when men first wept for joy at the thought of such 
heroism. Martin Luther at Worms, as he stood unmoved 
amid so many of the world's frowning potentates, the dying 
Sir Philip Sidney, and the majestic figure of our own Wash- 
ington " moulded in colossal calm," still "rule our spirits 
from their urns." The world is wiser and better for the ex- 
ample of such men. They are as necessary for human pro- 
gress as the benefactors who have given to our use the railway, 
the steamship and the throbbing pulses of the electric tele- 
graph. Weshalleverbeanoblerandmoregenerouspeople in 
the recollection of these dead Confederates. It will never be 
forgotten how gladly they went down to the carnival of 
death. It seems but yesterday that they were streaming 
through this city on their way to Manassas and York- 
town. Their blood has scarcely yet been washed out from 


the soil of the battle-fiehls. They are, dear friends, as pal- 
pable to me as when luminous with the glory of Chancel- 
lorsville or sublime in their failure at Gettysburg. 

It is Avell, then, for us to be here today ! It is our sacred 
duty to instruct our children as to the causes that led these 
men from their homes down into the valley of death. To 
the innocent soul that at this late day enquires what in- 
iluccd these dead Confederates to take up arms, we have only 
to say, that they were the exponents of a passionate and per- 
vading determination of a free people to defend and assure 
their threatened autonomy. They drew swords as the last 
argument against men who, they believed were pushing 
them to thraldom. These descendants and inheritors of the 
fathers who had achieved liberty and independence for 
America were resolved that the comjtact made in 17S7 
should not be construed either to their injury or dishonor. 
They were unwilling that others should thrust themselves 
into control of our domestic concerns. They could not 
abide the thought that they, who were at best only allies, 
should repeat the Athenian habit of altering alliance to 
hegemony and that into empire. These dead Confederates 
knew that the slogan of slavery was at best a subterfuge. 
They well understood how that was to be an excuse for as- 
suming control of Southern lives and fortunes. It was not 
hidden from them that the accomplishment of African 
emancipation would not suspend the incursions of men, 
who had resolved that all the States should conform to the 
Boston decrees. It was to preserve the great American idea 
of free and equal commonwealths that these dead friends of 
ours sought to establish a government that would for ages 
transmit such a public blessing. They feared to consort 
longer with men who had pronounced the great compact "a 
league with death and a covenant with hell." The slow 
torture of years of insult and recrimination culminated in 
the election of 1860. The authorities at Washington would 
listen to no terms but those of submission. A roar of artil- 


lery was heard in Charleston harbor ; the starry bunting 
went down, and then the dance of death began. These men 
asleep around us were tilling peaceful fields, but the sound 
of coming invasion was in the air : 

The.y drew their swords and wielded tliem 

'Till sliattered in tlieir ijrasp ; 
A belt of blood from sea to sea 

The wliole broad land did clasp : 
Let others tell of what tliey did, 

The tale will never die — 
How miffhty hosts j^rew pale and lied 

Before their battle-cry. 

How they toiled and died during the war is too sad to be 
here recounted. Like King Francis at Pavia they lost every 
thing but honor. Now to their children and surviving com - 
rades no guerdon remains but the stern retributions of 
time. But let no man dream they died in vain. As the 
blood of the martyr is the seed of the church, so can no 
noble and costly sacrifice be lost to the world. We are 
richer in our ruined homesteads and trampled fields than 
if the demon of strife had never wasted our high places. 
The scarred and desolate battle grounds have become Mara- 
thons and Runnymedes to mankind. They are a prouder 
heritage than boundless plains crowded with cities and 
seamed with the mighty high-ways of traflBc. 

It cannot be forgotten by us or the generations of the 
future what manner of females were the friends and con- 
sorts of these dead Confederates. It was not alone by sol- 
diers on the field of battle that heroism was displayed. In 
those sad and stormy years there were in all parts of the 
South multitudes of pure and tender hearts that went out 
in anguish to the suffering men of our armies. The sentry 
as he walked his lonely beat well knew far away at home 
were white hands lifted in prayer for his safety and return. 
It could not be that such fair and delicate beings should 
head the charging squadrons, but when the roar of conflict 


would coaso and the stricken field lay thick with the fiower 
of our youth, pallid and helpless atnid the dead and the 
dying, what ang'els of mercy seemed the radiant beings 
that crowded to the reeking hosi>itals. Who but God will 
evci" know the height and depth of their devotion to the 
cause they loved? What agony of suspense was theirs, as 
they listened from afar with ever increasing dread of the 
fatal news that at last told how these men around us were 
<lain. Where else in the tide of time has been seen sucli 
sul)lime fortitude — as without complaint every thing dear 
and valual>le to them was surrendered to the l:>eloved cause? 
They clung to it when the manliest hearts had grown des- 
perate and when tlie last battle flag had been furled and 
the broken remnant of the van([uished went back to their 
homes; who will ever forget how true to the ruined cause 
were still these beautiful and matchless Southern women? 
It cannot be that the lessons of the war will -be lost upon 
the American people. Providence will never permit such 
seas of blood to have been shed in vain. Our martyrs have 
shown us that the most enduring benefits are not won in 
strugiiles for self advancement. If we have drained the 
chalice of woe, it has made possil)le a grander future. Let 
us widen the skirts of our humanity as the best commen- 
tary in our })ower upon the sei'vices of our dead. As a soft 
answer avertcth wrath, so is an ancient malignity dis- 
armed in tlie face of concession. Let us cherish these 
graves but let us also realize the significance of the living 
present. The .spirit that feels an imputation like a wound 
despises a lasting resentment. The weakling and the cow- 
ard may brood over injuries, but 'the bravest are the ten- 
derest," as they also are the ujost forgiving. Julius Cajsar 
could out-face the world in arms but could also weep like a 
woman over the death of betrayed Pompey. Nothing is so 
irresistible as good will. It transfigures the human face 
and beams from the eye with a light beautiful enough to 
stream out from the windows of heaven. Whatever it may 


please others to do, let us of the South be true to God, to 
these dead men and to ourselves. Let us lift our hands in 
prayer that peace and love may again rule in our councils. 

Amei'ical last birth of time — 

How groat tlij' mission none maj- tell, 
Upon thy stately argosies 

The stars of hope beam strong and well ; 
Oh! land oft washed in freedom's blood 

And born of travail long and sore, 
God help us keep thee on the course 

Our fathers marked in days of yore. 

And now, dear friends, it but remains for us to strew 
flowers upon the resting places of our dead. Alas ! much 
of our hearts is buried in these graves with them. I am 
satisfied that God keeps and blesses these martyrs to duty. 
After life's fitful fever they sleep so well we have nothing 
left but to give them our thanks and tears. " Such a sleep 
the}^ sleep, these men we loved," we may well leave them to 
heaven and the high keeping of history. In the temple of 
renown they fill niches so high that they are safe in all 
contingencies. They rest in an immortality of fulfilled 
duty. We may be troubled by party feuds and winter's 
cold but they are as deaf to human strife as to the wars of 
the elements. We may be surfeited with success or broken- 
hearted in the stress (>f some great calamity, but these he- 
roes slumber on forever undisturbed. 

" On Fame's eternal camping grounds 
Their silent tents are spread. 
And glory guards with solemn round 
The bivouack of the dead."